Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Fanaticism and Violence: The Features of an ailing society | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Is the Arab society sick? I say clearly and boldly that it is. To admit this is neither defeatist nor a self-indictment, but rather assurance that examination of the disease is the only way to find its cure. What are the features of such an ailing society? The anomalous increase in populations of Arab cities, and in turn, the despair and anger created by the masses due to the corruption that consumes the hearts of the cities. Such corruption is rife in the administration and the economy displayed by the luxurious living of the bourgeoisies.

Then there is the failure of development. The dilemma is that as we hear about high rates of economic development, we still hear for example, that the average Jordanian laborer or the unemployed citizen still dips plain bread in his tea for his dinner. He may then watch TV for a while, before retiring to the bedroom to practice his only pleasure without thinking about the responsibility of a fourth or fifth child.

Tomorrow, he will either throw his children onto the streets or send them to the primary schools where they become programmed by a backward educational system. The children are then passed to the Mosque before the state retrieves them to keep them away from the leaders of meaningless anger that is essentially directed at the self and the world including its believers and infidels.

Another feature is what is called the &#34culture of guardianship&#34 which clearly demonstrates the social imbalance. It is equal to the culture of programming.&#34 Each Arab society is under the tutelage of the state, the regime, or ruling political party. There is no way out or no way to freedom. The regimes themselves were threatened by the random American &#34reform&#34 which uses an Americanized opposition that is worse than the regimes themselves. The Iraqi system was &#34reformed&#34 by force. The random democracy brought along a deformed &#34Sectarian Democracy&#34 controlled by religious political parties that interfere in aspects of everyday life in which even Saddam Hussein dared not to meddle. In Baghdad, Basra, and Al-Nasiriyyah, barbers are killed if they do not cut their customer”s hair in the requested Taliban style!

The society in which we find the &#34culture of guardianship&#34 is equally able to practice guardianship over others just as it is subject to it from the rulers. It is able to convey to the world the spark of embittered violence, with which it is loaded, as well as its hatred and death wishes to the &#34infidels&#34. Bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahari told society that democracy is impermissible and that the civilians who elected George W. Bush and Blair deserve death.

The two deluded sheikhs are ignorant of the fact that most Western citizens do not elect their representatives on the basis of their foreign policies, but rather by considering the most efficient candidate in developing the economy and improving society in general.

Also, the ailing society suffers from a deterioration in culture. Such deterioration is represented through the decline in the aesthetic appreciation of education, as well as low cultural level of the teacher. This is reflected on the several generations, which neither respect the Arabic language, nor appreciate it. The deterioration of culture has also caused generations to suffer the schizophrenic feature of following a strict education on one hand, and an obsession with the overly sexually orientated radio and television shows. Rimon Idah would frequently take pride in his weak knowledge of Arabic. The &#34wise man&#34 Jaja would complain about the difficulty of the Arabic language, while refusing to admit that it was his incompetence in expressing himself in Arabic rather than that of the language. Meanwhile, the cultural elite who were opposed to his trend, such as Charles Malik and Al-Bustani, would take pride in the Arabic language and encourage people to learn it in order to appreciate its beauty.

The Christian War of Crusades was a religious-based violence consequent to a European society that was rife with religious fanaticism and obsession. When Europe was liberated from the &#34despotism of programmed ideologies,&#34 it armed itself with the weapon of racial colonial nationalism against the less developed nations. After this, it was distracted shortly by its own wars between Fascism, Capitalism, and Marxism. Eventually Capitalism triumphed with its use of the parochial religious cultures. It then clashed with such religious cultures and this clash is what has caused the ordeals of New York, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine.

The &#34Jihadist&#34 culture then exploited the frustration and anger of the ailing and backward societies in order to mobilize them against the international injustice. It supports its call by spreading despair and weakness through suicide attacks in the name of &#34Jihad against the Infidels.&#34 Under this banner, religion has been transformed from a ”human doctrine” to a ”violent ideology”. Generations of deprived Muslims taken in by Western nations, have been employed in violence against these very nations.

Fanatical violence both local and exported has replaced the competition of science, which was a tool of development and &#34noble and peaceful resistance&#34 used by the dominant capitalism. A large gap developed between East and West Asia. The East (Japan, China, and Korea) maintained the example of peaceful resistance against the West by competing with it in the scientific fields and its industrial applications as well as its exportation. On the other hand, the Pakistanis, Arabs, and Iranians of West Asia have adopted the religious obsession as a means of revenge. They insist on receiving &#34inspiration&#34 from outdated and misguiding Imams and are mainly concerned with subjecting the world to violence. The regimes that are currently fighting religious violence are reaping the seeds of which they have sown by embracing the traditional religious institutions and employing their religious opinions in order to restrict political reform and to tighten control within society. During a time in which regimes were prioritizing expenditure on military and security rather than investing in human and social development, the traditional religious institutions, consciously or unconsciously, served the aims of political fundamentalists of reaching the common goal of &#34the religious state&#34. Such was a recurring scenario in most Arab and Islamic countries.

The reader may question my lengthy elaboration of the disease without alluding to its cure. I alone do not have the answer, but rather the answer is known by us all. The answer is certainly not placing the blame and responsibility upon the regimes, as reports by Arab experts given to the United Nations Development Program have done. The answer to some degree, lies in serious discussion through formed joint committees that work privately, in which the political system, the United Nations, the international funds, and the organizations of civil society both religious and non-religious, all participate.

Contrary to the beliefs of religious parties, there is no ready-made cure for such an ailment and the deficiencies of the Iranian experience clearly demonstrate this. The answer begins with coordination and agreement between the aforementioned institutions. To take one example, let us consider the issue of family planning. The regimes fear publicly encouraging family planning due to the reaction it may provoke from fundamentalists. All major religions encouraged human reproduction when our planet lacked people. However, presently, with the global population exceeding 6 billion, the religious institutions should accept that population is linked to production of goods, resources, and the flourishing of the economy. It is unreasonable, for instance, that the Egyptians whose population makes up an overwhelming 72 million, continue to produce one million babies every 9 months whilst living in a country in which the agricultural and residential land does not exceed 60,000Km/Sq, which is just over a third of Syria.

Then I wonder why the state celebrates the new ceremony of mass weddings. Such a wedding in fact is a social funeral because it means an increase in population. Such a ceremony intensifies the failure of economic development. The failure lies in the incompetence to provide jobs for grooms who rely on state loans to reproduce, yet do not receive any loans to help gain employment.